Start Up Blog

Don’t create what you ran away from

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on April 15, 2014

I’m betting that everyone reading this blog, either works in a business they helped build, or is planning to escape their corporate cubicle some time real soon. And the people who are planning exit from the big nasty industrial conglomerate they work for, are planning, most often – build a corporation. (Sounds a lot uglier than the word ‘startup’ – doesn’t it?)

Ok, so the irony is clear.

But the way to overcome the irony is to remember why we left our job / company in the first instance. It probably wasn’t because we weren’t earning a decent income. It probably wasn’t because our standard of living was too low. It probably wasn’t because working conditions were unsafe. No, it was about the culture, the excessive administration, the frustrations, the lack of creative input and the dehumanising elements which so often ensconce a large corporate environment. And so here’s what we need to remember:

If we succeed in building our own version of a ‘corporation’ people like us will someday come and work inside it. They too have the same desires and requirements in order to enjoy their work day. They too, will hope to leave someday and make their own version of a corporation. Given all of this, it’s best we remember not to create the thing we ran away from.

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What I noticed in 2013

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on December 31, 2013

I’ve been reviewing my notepad from 2013 and thought I’d share my insights into what’s changed and the big issues from my perspective in startups, business and technology.

Technology is no longer a thing: It’s almost not worth mentioning now it is so ensconced in human life. Business, political and social activities are intertwined in technology as an organism. Having a digital strategy is a bit like having an ‘electricity strategy’ – it’s just nonsense. In fact, if any business still delineates a part of their strategy as digital, then it’s fair to say they have no strategy at all. A terrific piece of evidence for this fact is observing how the technology and business section of the WSJ and New York Times now have a massive overlap.

Social media just is: It’s becoming a bit like general chit chat between any group of friends. A way of communicating. It doesn’t have a nuance or specificity that makes it remarkable anymore. It just is. I guess it’s now just a stage in the evolution of human communication. We could regard this as evidence of its permanence.

Anonymity is the new black: You may remember in the early commercial web era – post 1993, we all had alias names and emails before we felt comfortable enough to convert to our actual human self on line. It seems now that anonymity is back. People wanting to express themselves without it impacting their college application or next job interview. It’s been said that this helped tumblr, and is a large part of Snapchats appeal.  As privacy gets eroded through government activity we can expect a lot more anonymous forums to emerge as powerful web platforms. Another outcome is the potentiality for privacy to become a serious luxury going forward. 

Email & text on the comeback trail: The inbox has made a comeback for me. This year I signed up to a number of email newsletters which provided a haven of curation in my areas of interest. It might also be that my email address is mine, where social media has the who owns this data issue hanging over it. I also reverted to more text / SMS activity which would’ve been the only domain for my social media a couple of years ago. I think this was facilitated by improved video and photo output of smart phones, the direct & personal nature of people we share with phone to phone. Also the up weighting of data allowances on mobile phone from carriers.

Device equilibrium: All devices are merging to a kind of functionality equilibrium. Phablet anyone? It does seem as though all tech devices can perform much the same function. Now the only differentiator is size preference and UX. 

Still waiting for wearables: It feels like we are in early 2000′s phase for smart phones when it comes to wearable computing. We all know we want it, we all know it is inevitable, but no one has quite nailed the technology output yet. Google Glass is the clear front runner, but no one has launched anything yet which has captured the ‘iPhone’ this changes everything moment. Here’s hoping for 2014.

We of things: See above – insert web of things.

The geo layer: Doesn’t seem to me like it can be a point of difference for any web related startup or brand. Foursqaure and others may have missed their chance. It’s a lot like digital now and just exists as an invisible layer on all our output. A vital component to making sense in a technology world, but omnipresent simple and expected.

Long reads: The deminishing returns of news and immediate communication are helping long thoughtful analysis make a comeback. The startup Medium.com seems exciting and longer posts which consider the implications of rapid change are capturing more of my time these days.

Tech valuations & bubblenomics: Crazy company valuations continue to astound. We are absolutely in another technology bubble, this time it is a valuation bubble, rather than an investment boom. I was talking with Nic Hodges about the $3 billion+ valuation of Pinterest proposing that they are like a shopping centre of sorts – a Westfield maybe? His retort was classic. He said:

Westfield owns $20 billion worth of property. What Pinterest owns is some code.

It seems that everyone forgets that valuations must be a function of earnings, or expected future earnings. Here’s a question worth asking when it comes to the true worth of any company. What would you rather own:

Apple stock at a 14 times price earnings ratio?

or 

Facebook at a 141 times price earnings ratio?

Do you really think Facebook will be 10 times more profitable than it is now or any time soon? Or that Snapchat with an infinity price earnings ratio (zero earnings on $3.2b valuation) will ever make serious money? There is a very big difference between usage utility and commercial value.

There’s a reason why Warren Buffet has been in the top 2 richest people in the world for the past 30 years – he knows what companies are actually worth.  And there’s a reason why many famous VC’s are rich – they are selling you sausages at caviar prices. It seems the real money in technology stocks is made when the founders exit, not when investors buy it.

So – what did you guys notice in 2013?

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The evolution of luxury

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on September 26, 2013

Like most human experiences or endeavours they live in a state of flux. They evolve. I’ve been thinking alot lately about the concept of luxury. And while luxury is a relative concept based on location, wealth, opportunity and many other factors, it seems to me as though technology is the most influential factor in its evolution. Most luxuries are temporal and may exit the fray based on technological advances or shifts in social behaviour.

The industrial revolution introduced a lot of luxuries, and invented a particularly well off middle class. Innovations which made life more comfortable would arrive and make their way down the social and economic ladder as civilization forged ahead. But as you’ll see, most luxuries have a limited lifespan with such a status. While some non-luxuries become luxuries as we evolve in other areas.

A non exhaustive list of the evolution of luxury:

  • Settlement: Becoming masters of our domain to the point where we didn’t need to be a species of nomads.
  • Excess food: Learning how to grow plants, trap & breed animals.
  • Agriculture: New efficient farming methods allowed people to exit food preparation as a way of life.
  • Piece labour: Getting paid by how efficient we became. The factory and the industrial revolution.
  • Industrialised homes: Heating, cooling, indoor kitchens, plumbing, refrigeration, washing machines.
  • Annual leave: 40 hour work weeks, salaries and paid leave from work, weekends.
  • Cars: Private motorised travel.
  • Air travel & holidays: Still being further democratised to this day.
  • Conspicuous consumption: Hello 1980′s, competing with the Joneses.
  • Fashion: Clothing beyond both needs, and functionality.
  • Premium food & widgets: Imported artisinal gelato and $100 electric toothbrushes.
  • Information: Anyone with access to the web today has more information on hand than the US President just 10 years ago.
  • Time: A core luxury today, due to humans inability to admonish the superfluous.
  • Privacy: An emerging luxury as we allow government infiltration and lack the presence of mind to think before we publish.

Of course you can think of luxuries which belong on this list, you can see how non luxuries have become luxuries as technology changes lifestyle. We can also guess some which might appear on the list in the coming years. So why am I telling you this?

It’s a realy clue into what might be important for entrepreneurs. Within the new luxury realms (physical or social) lie a number of startup ideas which will change the world and make people rich (for lack of a better word) in the process. The only question is, what might be tomorrows luxury in your community and how can you deliver it to them to make their life better? Or even better widen the distribution of something only the fortunate few currently have access to.

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The Moldova connection

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on August 21, 2013

In what seems like a century ago I built and launched one of the first peer to peer websites – rentoid.com

In order to build the site, I outsourced the coding on a site called oDesk. This site and others of its ilk are a great entrepreneurial equaliser – for they reduce the barriers to entry. Not just in terms of price for the services, but also by allowing non techies gain access to techie services. They also allow eco systems to flourish across international borders. But they have an added benefit… a real benefit which isn’t spoken about all that often.

They facilitate an important cultural exchange.

Meet Vasilii Racovitsa – Pictured below – sharing a meal with me in my home. Doesn’t seem like such a big deal…

Vasilii Racovitsa

… Until you know that I first met Vasilii via oDesk as a freelanc web developer back in 2007. And that Vasilii was born during the cold war in the old USSR in a province called Moldova. [Moldova is now an independent country] While the relationship with Vasilii started as a commercial one, it is much more than that now. In fact, it has been much more than that for many years… he is a dear friend and business confidant for whom I want family and financial success as much as I want it for myself. But I just met him in real life for the first time last week.

Besides the fact that he made my first web play rentoid.com come to life, he also taught me more about technology than anyone else.  The truth is that the lower labour rates in Eastern Europe allowed me to arbitrage my way into techie / startup land. But most people falsely believe that lower labour rates in developing economies are a one way street. The the people in developed economies are the only beneficiaries, and that we ‘take advantage’ of those in less developed markets. In truth we’ve both benefitted dramatically. Through my local connections Vasilii now generates more that 50% of his business from Melbourne, a mere 14,854km from Moldova. Which is why he is here. He is here on a large project totally independent of me. A project which dwarfs anything he ever did for me.  But it was facilitated through the network I was introduced him to. What’s more interesting is that his business employs more people in Moldova than rentoid ever did here in Melbourne. And his development team now work in every form of coding / language / mobile dev you can think of.

Since he’s been here, it is like hanging out with a long lost relative. He’s just like the guy I used to speak to every day on skype… Which is a great reminder that the on-line and real world should only ever be pre-ambles to each other – seamlessly interchangeable.

I’m  keen to introduce him to everyone in our local startup community who likes to meet amazing, smart, helpful people. In the time and multiple projects I’ve worked with him on, he has never once gone over budget and always delivered to spec. Put simply, he keeps his promises.

This week I’ve shipped him into the abode of big Scott Kilmartin, who he has also done some work for. But if you’re keen to offer:

“a bed for beta”

“divan for development”

“a cot for code”

“a hammock for HTML”

…or a simple welcome to someone from our global community, then just let me know.

While the tools this digital revolution have provided us are amazing, it’s the connection to our world that we should be truely thankful for.

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Office Culture – Coffee vs Education

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on December 19, 2012

The of two important cultural phenomenons got me thinking about office culture again. The love of coffee and the love of the internet. Both have a massive stake in western world office culture. Most people engaged in anything from small to large companies have omnipresent access to both. But the perception of each is vastly different.

But as far as I can tell the following is true:

Coffee: If you are at the coffee machine, making a coffee or buying one at the local espresso house in the morning no one looks twice. In fact it is respected and expected, part of the culture. A simple coffee fix is fair play in an office environment. Regardless of the fact that it is during work hours.

Internet: If you are surfing the web (excluding facebook) and potentially reading an article within your industry scope it looks bad. People see it as avoiding work or wasting time. It’s evident that this belief exists by the number of ‘click outs’ people do as others walk by. When in reality, this is a vital part of being effective and up to date.

What they both point to is the importance of culture. Both the macro societal one and the internal one. I’m starting to believe that culture is at the apex of company output. And the culture we foster determine the people we attract and the output we create. One thing I know for sure, is that in a rapidly changing business landscape I’d rather have an informed set of staff working for me, than a set of robots who are operating on the punch clock paradigm.

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Invention vs Innovation

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on November 15, 2012

When the personal computing era started to thrive in the mid 1970′s it was juxtaposed against a strong anti-corporate counter culture. Many hippies saw computers as tools of oppression designed, built and used by large corporations. But there was another angle, another truth about the invention of this technology, and pretty much every other technology. If the technology has enough utility and importance it will eventually end up in the hands of the people. And if we are luck the invention will eventually be used to disrupt the bad parts of the world that invented it. And so crossover groups and communities like the Homebrew Computer Club emerged to fill that void. It happened with the PC and most forms of digital technology, where the people are now the major beneficiary as major legacy corporations scramble to survive.

For this type of thing to happen we don’t need more inventors, what we need is more innovators. Innovation is about taking an idea or concept and executing it. Making it usable. Introducing it in a way that makes it both accessible and desirable. Technology only really becomes valuable when it is distributed and omnipresent. If we want to create value through a startup or any business for that matter our focus should be on allowing people to easily ride on our vehicle, not the vehicle itself.

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Meeting efficiency barometer

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on April 25, 2012

As I write this I am siting in an airport lounge and thinking about how much work I have got done, simply because I have not been interrupted by meetings.

But let me start by saying there is nothing more powerful than people sharing ideas when done right, the problem is that most meetings are what I call ‘Public Reading Scenarios’. That is people aggregating in the same room so that someone will read to them, something they could read in their own time, or more often the case, is totally irrelevant and no meeting is needed.

So I started doing this weird exercise every time I happen to be in a meeting filled with people. What I do is this:

  1. I count the number of people on the meeting.
  2. I decide what I think the average salary in the room is.
  3. I work out the hourly rate of the average salary.
  4. Add this to the number of hours the meeting goes for
  5. Work out the cost of meeting in wages

Last week I was in a meeting with 22 people. I calculated the average salary as $150k per annum, which then translated into an hourly rate of  $75. The meeting went for 5 hours. The cost of this meeting was then $8250. I don’t care how big or wealthy the companies involved are, this is a lot of money. What makes it more significant is that most meetings are pointless – as this one was.

This meeting in particular was what I call a ‘Public Reading Event’. There was now real exchange of ideas, debate or in depth discussion. Rather a few people stood in front of copy heavy power point slides and read it out to the people sitting around eating muffins and pretending to listen. A total waste of time and the $8250. This is before we add to the price the opportunity cost of real work that wasn’t done during the 5 hours, or the cost of the meeting ‘culture’ it creates. And we all know a strong ‘meeting culture’ results in a vortex of indecision and slow business practice.

No point raising the issue without proposing a solution. So here is mine.

We add a widget to every email / meeting / calendar organiser which does my calculation above and estimates the ‘Cost of the meeting’. So when the meeting request is sent through the organiser and the participants see the cost in time – which is the real cost. It would say something like – estimated cost of meeting $3000. If people have to travel it should calculate that cost as well. This will make people think twice before they send the meeting request. It will also make us think twice before we accept the request. We measure the cost of most things in a company, but for some reason we rarely measure the cost of employees time in ‘salary employee’ environments, which is ironic when they usually represent 20-50% of the cost of running most companies. The widget is a pretty simple idea that could be mashed into any calendar function. Maybe it’s an iPhone calendar app that someone ought build?

When a meeting does occur and we agree it is worth while and attend, there would be a pretty strong emphasis on the value that occurred during it. I’m certain that ‘Public Reading Events’ would be a rare experience indeed.

So the only question remaining is which nimble app startup firm is going to build this?

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Moving to ‘open’

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on August 1, 2011

The world is quickly moving to ‘open’ whether we like it or not. Companies that lean this way will invariably do better than those that lean to ‘secret’. It is also important to know that our philosophy can’t be segmented. It is a cultural decision.

Which way is your organization leaning?

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Soundbites from the future

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on April 28, 2011

A few soundbites from the future:

Leadership: It’s no longer about being king of the mountain, it’s about being center of the circle. Prof Joseph Nye author of Soft Power.

Woman will lead the 21st century, or at least a feminine social and business ethic. The 20th century was very male centric. This has flipped with the rise of social facilitation.

The 3rd world is benefiting from the mistakes of the 1st world over the past 100 years. BRIC nations especially are innovating and creating new technology platforms, while the west holds onto fossil fuel era. BRICS are investing in recycling, eco, solar and fusion and the west is resisting.

Conviviality Culture: All we really long for is socialisation. Consumption was the substitute for social recognition in a n industrialised, systematic world. Geolocating is being used as tool for us as a collective to “assemble” so we can collaborate and take back control of our destiny and conversations. Mobiles tell us where we are, and why we are there. Not being listed or ‘located’ via mobile is like not being listed in the white pages.

But, research shows that only 5% of people are “happy” when socialising on line… which tells us that it used as a substitute or preamble to actually connect physically and meet. Socialising on-line is a facilitator to actual ‘real’ connection that we want to make as humans. The proof of this is in the growth of us geo-locating each other. We need to be together.

Although we are connecting on-line, we want to tune out, log off and turn off. We aspire to not having to check our emails or update our ‘status’. It’s onerous and heavy. People in their 20’s are telling us this – not just Boomers.

The magic of the ‘live’ event is being re-born. Live is better than free on line. The free on line is the digital sampling of the event with the real connection…. It’s about being there. We’ve seen this with live footage and concerts on youtube and the growth of live streaming.

Un-Social Networking: Martin Lindstrom of Brand Sense says we are suffering a little from digital emptiness.

Meaning & Value > Volume

The above equation is something that marketers, brands and businesses need to take note of. We are no longer living in a volumetric era. Production and efficiency is being replaced very quickly by value and meaning.

We now have 2 windows to do business with:

The Retailer window and the Digital window. And people are starting to buy back time. The digital window helps us do that. Time is the asset – not ‘stuff’.

People are re-thinking why they buy. Unlike previous generations young Australians are participating in community activity, many of which do not involve any economic incentives.

Beta Attitudes (the every-preneur)

People are doing small scale, networked and highly responsive activities. They are prepared to get involved and just see what happens. The engagement and involvement is a larger part of the project than the actual outcome.

Live gatherings are occurring as an antidote to digital culture…. Or is it a manifestation of digital culture?

We are seeing micro festivals. The stadium era is over. We are more interested in a niche fringe community than a mass event. Mass media, top 40, stadium ethic and the horrible idea of the Grand Prix is out dated. The micro cohort is where it is at. Customised local and organised by ‘us’. Grand Prix is over bearing and crass – it has no fit with our emerging culture. We’ve already seen this sentiment in Melbourne.

Micro, Niche, Fringe, Bespoke, Local and Artisan are all words that we are appearing before the word ‘festival’.

Google this: Bodega party in a box

SMS Slingshot: converging the digital world with a physical interaction http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKEFAFP4lC4 A great way to brand events around a city which is cool, a digital crossover and temporary.

Micro Salons are starting to appear first on-line, and then in person. The art of conversation is not being lost…. It is being reborn now that media is interactive and not passive. Sure language has iterated, been redefined, shortened, coded… but the conversations are real and the more meaning and ideas are being exchanged. We are more ‘conversational’ than ever!

A punk ethic is entering business. Businesses are not asking what’s allowed – they’re just doing it. Implementing first and answering questions later…. This is a big advantage for being small. Take the example of Zingara Cucina

The beta attitude is to forget focus groups and give it a try….. and be honest about it…. Be honest about the experimental nature of what we are doing. It’s not about saying ‘this is goal of the project’ but saying that ‘doing the project is the goal’ and maybe something great will come from it…. And we’ll iterate it as we go…. We’ll invest in doing and iterating…. The digital soft economy and low barriers to entry make it possible.

There are 5 senses, and we still can’t experience 3 of them on the internet – so we must complete the connection / transaction off line…. We have to if we want to get real… and we do want to get real because we are human. But have no doubt the other 3 senses will arrive on the web.

The internet is trying to mimic the real world. GEO-locating is the juncture that makes technology connections “real”.

APP Appeal

Retailers don’t know who their customers are, or where they are or what they bought…. E-commerce retailers know all this and they have a massive advantage because of it – their advantage isn’t just in cost infrastructure it’s in rich data and information.

Australia has the highest usage and penetration of social media at an average of 7 hours a month. This is ahead of the USA, the UK and Japan. Australian retailers say their customers are not ready, but the truth is that they are not ready, or even scared.

Smart phone penetration is now 45% of handsets in Australia. The internet is in every second pocket.

Retail Future

-       We need a sense that we are experiencing something.

-       The tactile store is the future.

-       Transaction must be replaced with entertainment.

-       Event based stores.

-       Artisan values.

-       Streaming production into the store on the screen.

-       Stores must become Maisons – like some luxury brands have done.

Here’s an example – A high end fashion brand with a craftsmans store in London that live streams the craftsman in action onto a big screen in the high street store in Hong Kong.

It’s about the smell and the emotion of the store.

Can you smell the leather from the haute couture hand bags?

Does the store have an emotional footprint or large ‘sale’ signs?

The tactile store has returned and needs to be part of any seriously long term retail strategy.

Crumpler have the in store production bay behind glass where their craftsman can be viewed in action and custom made bags can be ordered, and watched being made. And Haul plan to do something even better with their upcoming ‘Town Haul’ combining food beverage and fashion.

Burberry have fashion events streamed live onto iPads they have instore so that people can purchase the ‘new’ catwalk styles before they are available.

An Acronym for the retail future is: LIVE

Live, Intimate, Visceral, Exclusive (or Event)

Pop up shops – people thought they were a fad. A cute idea in a world of heavy innovation and entrepreneurial-ism. But it turns out they are not going away. Pop up shops make sense in a world of rapid change, and BETA culture.

Component Retail – brands will start shipping product components and raw materials to stores for to be assembled on site… as part of the retail experience. The customers will become the theatre at store level and the creators by virtue of this concoction. What we’ve seen in digital…’A mashup co-creation, mass customised society’… we will inevitably see in retail…. The retailers that survive anyway. We’ll see this a lot more on shop windows:

“Build it yourself in store”

Logistics will become a hot business as we move into component and on-line retail. It’s the business we’ll all need to facilitate the commercial world we are living in. Buy shares in Fedex…. Shipping will be the biggest beneficiary of changes in the business landscape.

3D Printing & Rapid Prototyping: The ability to fabricate everything from chairs, to furniture, to surfboards, to garden tools. It’s hard to believe but new printers are being developed that can take images off the screen and replicate them into an actual size unit. They currently use a layering technique and can ‘prototype’ objects using a range of materials (plastics, carbon composites et al).

To give us just a little bit of belief the ‘fantastical statement’ above this about: Only a decade or so ago a printer was a guy name Tony in who had a little factory Ringwood. Now it’s a thing that sits on your desk that creates stuff pretty much as good as anything we can buy which is printed. Manufacturing will go the same way – into the micro solution segment.

The manufacturing industry will be evolve and provide the resources so we can create our own version of the ‘thing’.

Brand stories are best when we can choose our own adventure… Exclusive balanced with accessible.

“BETA-PRENEURS”

We are entering a world of trial and error. Where it is actually OK to fail. Betapreneurs would rather fail in action than fail by not trying. Betapreneurs transfer virtual world skills into the real world and business.

New low costs of business and access to production and information are facilitating a ‘try it and see’ culture.

A result is the new Anarconomy:

Anarconomy: An alternative economy where there are no geographic boundaries and often no tax claims. We circumvent the system. We make our own rules.

Alternative currencies are starting to appear. Facilitated by digital arbitrage… where we know the cross rates of goods and services after currency conversion and shipping. So the alternative of a global currency will emerge. Probably as a function of the gold standard (global price of gold as the trading valuation mechanism) with some form of digital instant and unseen conversion from our home currency into some quantum derived from gold. Maybe Paypal will do it for us? Or will it be Facebook credits?

Where Youth once rebelled against commerce, today’s youth embrace it. They like brands so much, that they want to build their own. They are unapologetically ‘into’ business. It’s a conspiracy between brand love and low barriers that has given birth to a new entrepreneurial spirit. Web enabled – of course. But it’s commerce on their terms.

Now days starting a new business is as simple as a mouse click and a few phone calls – Instapreneurs.

Betapreneurs are analysing insights from their jobs and converting these gaps into new businesses.  These founders are imbuing their new businesses with the values of our time. They have a willingness to ‘open source’.

It’s also worth noting that 75% of the fortune 500 companies were started during a recession. (the Kauffman Foundation) So it’s fair to imagine the GFC is going to be the foundation of tomorrows business leaders. 

Betapreneurs are steering old industries into new directions because they have no legacy infrastructure.

Artists are by passing the ‘store buyer barrier’ and going direct. The gatekeeper is evaporating, this is a good thing.

Why didn’t (don’t) retailers have personal shopping assistants? It took Betapreneurs to invent the category. Yet it could be a big point of difference for department stores and easy to generate a solid return on the employees wages. Dear Myer, pay attention.

The Sticky Institute represents zine culture in a way that culture jams the old industry due to a lack of legacy infrastructure.

We should ask ourselves this question:

Do we have Fans or Customers?

The reason brands don’t have the former, should form the initial thinking for their new strategy.

John Morefield is The 5c Architect. It’s a crazy story of just doing and then discovering where it goes. And the kicker is that he isn’t actually an Architect.

New pricing models are being invented by Betapreneurs. Like the following examples:

Lentil as anything – a vegetarian restaurant where the user decides what to pay after their meal.

Restaurants where people bid for the best tables and seats.

Prufrock coffee who created the worlds first ‘disloyalty card’. The card to encourages his clients to sample the wares of quality coffee shops around London. If a disloyalty member tries all 8, he will make you a free drink at his Prufrock Coffee. It might just help them keep Starbucks out.  It’s the community that matters more than the trader. This is the new collaborative world we are in transition towards. A community who vest their interests in each other.

The 80’s and 90’s were the great periods of so called ‘think tanks’. They are now changing into ‘Do Tanks’.  Weekend workshops were products and services are conceived, prototyped and shipped by Monday morning.  Often known as Startup Camps.

Ogilvy UK has started their new idea shop. With a social bent. From their web page it reads: Idea Shop is Ogilvy Group UK’s pop-up ad agency. We give free ideas to small and medium businesses, community projects, arts groups, charities and individuals. We’re nice like that.

Ideas are becoming big business and now they’re often outsourced to fresh minds. Possibly overnight – check out ideas while you sleep.

Brands can’t be a-political, they need to stand for something. Make a call and have a view. Eg Twitter wants to ‘To become “the pulse of the planet.”’ They’re happy to facilitate revolution in Moldova, Iran, Egypt and Libya.

We are starting to understand the bridge between the screen and the real. The two must service each other, not compete or be viewed as separate worlds.

GENERATION D (Digital)

People born after 1995 have never know life without the internet. They’re turning 16 and are soon about to drive cars, enter University, Vote in elections, drink alcohol and enter the worksforce.

We’ve been brought up in a world that was:

-       Pre internet

-       Pre mobile phone

-       Pre Google

-       Pre Social media

-       Pre Wikipedia

They haven’t. Such services and the benefits they provide are expected, benchmark, the way life “is”.

Generation D don’t care if the product is physical or digital. They will pay for stuff that is digital, if its worth the price. Contrary to what we believe the don’t expect all digital things to be free….

If our brands can’t get the latest stuff to them now, then they know who else can. We can’t define how they should shop, or they will teach us the hard way, especially in retail. For example, it’s no longer acceptable for fashion from Europe or anywhere to be a season late. Just not good enough in a connected world.

Gen D’s parents are also excited by new technology. They’re not Luddites and facilitate their kids obsession with the internet and technology.

Generation D don’t ‘network’. Rather, they play and collaborate. Their view isn’t hierarchical, it’s cooperative.

There are 4 million teenagers in Australia. Collectively they have $200 million a month to spend.

-       These teenagers spend 50 hours a week immersed in digital media.

-       65% use the internet to game once per week (boys & girls)

-       They want to be the controller (in life & games Wii / Kinect)

There are 400 million social gamers on Facebook. They want to game and be entertained.  It’s a multi-minded proposition. They can cope with it. They grew up multitasking, multi-channelling and absorbing multiple and disparate messages from every angle.

Ikea’s ‘Easy to Assemble’ sitcom is a great example of brands crossing entertainment boundaries. It’s proof that Youtube channels need to entertain and not just provide information.  It’s really funny, not surprising given it was written by actual, bone-fide comedians. Foxtel & all forms of pay TV should be scared, very scared.

My Damn Channel is great example of the ‘brand ownership shift’ – the middle man is being cut out in almost every industry.

Forget the net – launch with mobile. New parlance to keep in the top of your mind is “Share of pocket”. Our phone is an extension of our brains, our ego and our person.

Often the destination is determined for us. Who is already there, and where can we go on this budget – just like Adioso are doing.

A few words about print… well it wont disappear – just change. Particular niches will continue to pop up and be valuable because the content took time to digest and curate – like And now it’s in print. Because print culture is much different to book culture, they’ll head in different paths. It’s already started: e-books, niche prints.

People might not pay for information, but they will pay for insight. Insight is deeper and more considered. There’s not many substitutes out there for real deep insight. The problem is most people want customer to pay for their information, the problem is that much of this ‘information’ is available in millions of other places free.

People got confused about how to make money out of the internet. They thought we should be able to demand payment. They forgot about demand and supply. Supply doesn’t automatically equal demand – especially financial demand. First value must be created, then it is extracted. It’s the opposite to the previous industrial world of buying and selling. Now it’s proving, then earning.

The future is about the marriage of content and commerce – and content comes first. A nice example is net-a-porter

We’ve created a ‘check in’ culture. Already 1.5 million retailers are using foursquare for profit.

Social media will create a virtual advertising stock market of the future. A live stock exchange of media buying. By knowing where people are, knowing who they are, who they are with, what they buy and do and what they are interacting with – people will sell their attention. It will be flipped where the people opt in to certain information they are interested in. The interactions we have with specific people will be traded on-line in real time.

Some ‘C’s worth thinking about:

-       Create Content

-       Connect through issues and passion

-       Curate the world for the target audience

-       Communities must be facilitated socially

-       Competition – does your brand play games?

-       Context – think time, tone and place.

The final ingredient of the future is passion. It’s the one thing that can’t be outsourced, offshored or automated.

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The tale of two offices

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on August 3, 2010

I once worked in a consumer goods company which went from Individual offices to open plan.

I now work in an advertising agency where we have moved from individual offices to open desks.

What happened at these two firms is interesting. The first office (consumer goods marketing) sent out a mass email banning iPods (and any other brand of personal music device – this is seriously what the email said). Claiming that the idea of open plan was to encourage open communications, and it was rude to listen to music while working. That we couldn’t do our jobs while listening to music as it was distracting. While at the same time the directors had offices with doors.

The second office (advertising) did something much different. Firstly, all the directors have the same size desk and space as every employee. On our first day in the new office we all had a gift on our desk wrapped beautifully with a ribbon. Inside the pack was free coffee vouchers (for the cafe across the road) and a brand new iPod nano. And it had a note which said the following:

“The iPod nano – this is good for a few things. Moving to open will at times be challenging. If you feel it is getting on top of you, then feel free to bung in your iPod and listen to your favourite tunes. We’re also into the idea that we can all play part in creating our new vibe. So we’ll be asking you to supply the music each day. We’ll place a sign at the reception that says “Today’s music thanks to Ant Shannon.” Please make your playlist and get it on the dock. The iPods you’ve received also take video – get in the habit of recording the stuff you like or think about. Keep it, play it, share it.”


A massive difference in attitude, culture and resulting creative output. The culture we create in our startup or any business is a result of what we do, and we can change it at any time with a bit of effort and humanity.

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